Biochemical understanding of how plants regulate oil synthesis could point to new strategies for producing renewable energy-rich chemicals
Scientists studying plant biochemistry at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have discovered new details about biomolecules that put the brakes on oil production. The findings suggest that disabling these biomolecular brakes could push oil production into high gear—a possible pathway toward generating abundant biofuels and plant-derived bioproducts. The study appears in in the journal Plant Physiology.
“It’s normal for plant cells to down-regulate oil production when we feed them excess fatty acids, and this study confirms our hypothesis about how they do that. But we also discovered that the brakes on oil production are partially on even under normal conditions, which was a big surprise,” said Brookhaven Lab biochemist John Shanklin, who led the research.
“It would be like driving a car for several years and finding out one day that a parking brake you didn’t know about had been on all along. When you remove that brake, the car has much more power; that’s what we’ve just discovered for plant oil production,” he said.
A delicate balance
The biomolecule central to this study is the enzyme that determines the rate of oil production. That enzyme, known as ACCase, is a protein made of four subunits, all of which are necessary for the enzyme to function. With all four subunits in place, the enzyme drives the first step in the synthesis of fatty acids, key components of oils.
Earlier work by Shanklin’s group in 2012 revealed that when plant cells were fed a short-term excess of fatty acids (lasting less than two days), a feedback loop inhibited this enzyme, so oil production would slow down. As long as fatty acid concentrations dropped within two days, the enzyme and oil production would turn back on. But a longer-term excess of fatty acids would permanently disable the enzyme. At the time, scientists knew of several ways that the enzyme could be inhibited, but none of those ways could explain the irreversible inhibition they were observing.
We discovered that the brakes on oil production are partially on even under normal conditions, which was a big surprise.
— Brookhaven Lab biochemist John Shanklin
When colleagues at the University of Missouri discovered an inactive version of one of the four enzyme subunits in 2016, Shanklin suspected that this inactive subunit might be the cause of the permanent shutdown—by taking the place of one of the active subunits in the enzyme. He designed this new study to test that hypothesis.
Team member Hui Liu obtained plants in which the genes that code for the inactive subunits were individually disabled. She used those variants to breed plants that had combinations of disabled subunits. If Shanklin’s idea was correct, cells with disabled inactive subunits would have a lower capacity to turn the enzyme off.
“We suspected that disabling the genes would turn off the off-switch for oil production, allowing the plant cells to make more oil,” Shanklin explained.
When team member Jan Keereetaweep tested this idea by feeding the plant cells excess fatty acids, that’s exactly what happened: Cells with combinations of the disabled genes didn’t turn off oil production the way cells with the normal genes did.
“There was 50 percent less inhibition of oil production in the cells with disabled genes compared to the wild-type plant cells,” Shanklin said. That result confirmed that the inactive subunit coded for by the normal genes in the wild-type plants was indeed what triggered permanent shutdown of the enzyme.
But the big surprise came when Keereetaweep measured fatty acid synthesis in the plant cells with disabled inactive subunits without artificially feeding them excess fatty acids and compared the results with those for wild-type plant cells under the same conditions. Under those normal conditions, where you wouldn’t expect to see oil production inhibited, the enzyme driving oil production was significantly more active in plant cells with the disabled genes than in normal plant cells.
“That means that, even under normal conditions, inactive subunits are putting the brakes on ACCase, reducing its activity and limiting oil production,” Shanklin said. “Disabling the genes for those inactive subunits is like taking the brakes off the car, revealing the motor’s true potential.”
Learn more: Removing the Brakes on Plant Oil Production
The Latest on: Plant oil production
via Google News
The Latest on: Plant oil production
- Power Transformer Market 2020 Report To Impressive Growth, Production, Sales Area, Gross Margin, Revenue Analysis Forecast 2023on November 27, 2020 at 9:40 am
Power transformer can be defined as a technology that delivers a preference to source power as and when required ...
- Insights on the Middle-East Oil and Gas Line Pipe Market to 2025 - Growth, Trends, and Forecasts - ResearchAndMarkets.comon November 27, 2020 at 4:19 am
East Oil and Gas Line Pipe Market - Growth, Trends, and Forecasts (2020 - 2025)" report has been added to ResearchAndMarkets.com's offering.The natural gas production is the Middle-East region is ...
- Battered By Virus And Oil Slump, Biofuels Fall Out Of Favouron November 26, 2020 at 6:20 pm
Hit by the coronavirus pandemic and a sharp drop in oil prices, biofuel demand has declined for the first time in two decades and may struggle to recover, according to experts. "The collapse of oil ...
- Indian refiners' October oil processing highest since Marchon November 25, 2020 at 2:09 pm
Crude oil processed by Indian refiners rose to its highest in seven months in October as fuel demand picked up although throughput remained lower than a year earlier, hurt by the coronavirus ...
- Nigeria Starts Era of Micro Refineries With Tiny New Planton November 24, 2020 at 11:30 pm
Nigeria’s efforts to revamp its aging refineries may be bogged down due to a lack of resources, but Africa’s top oil producer is moving ahead with mini-plants in an effort to help end its dependency ...
- Saudi Aramco says domestic supplies unaffected by attack on Jeddah planton November 24, 2020 at 2:19 pm
Saudi Aramco said on Tuesday its domestic fuel supplies had not been affected by an attack the previous day by Yemen's Houthi group on a petroleum products distribution plant in Jeddah, with ...
- Port of Corpus expects oil production decline to slash its 2021 profiton November 24, 2020 at 12:03 pm
The Port of Corpus Christi expects revenue to fall in 2021 for the first time in five years as decreased oil and gas exploration hits its operating budget. Port commissioners approved a 2021 budget on ...
- Saudi Aramco Says Huthi Strike Tore Large Hole In Oil Tankon November 24, 2020 at 7:15 am
Saudi Aramco said Tuesday that a strike by Yemeni rebels on its plant in Jeddah tore a hole in an oil tank, triggering an explosion and fire in another assault on the kingdom's energy infrastructure.
- Petroteq Energy Announces That Work to Upgrade the Capacity and Reliability of Its Oil Sands Plant at Asphalt Ridge Is Nearing Completionon November 24, 2020 at 5:46 am
Company Says Commissioning of the Plant Now Planned to Begin During the Week of November 30, 2020 SHERMAN OAKS, CA / ACCESSWIRE / November 24, 2020 / Petroteq Energy Inc. (“Petroteq” or the “Company”) ...
via Bing News